Friday, October 19, 2012

Congress Betrays Vets Again

Laurel County, KY
Union Veterans  
The United States Government continues its long and disgraceful history of shabby treatment of its military.  Recently, Republicans in the Senate used a technicality to defeat a bi-partisan authored bill that would have established a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans back to work providing services for their communities in tending to the country's federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments.

Democratic lawmakers introduced the legislation shortly before Congress adjourned for the final weeks election campaigns. The bill had little chance of passing the House this Congress, but it still allowed senators to appeal to a key voting bloc.

"(With) a need so great as unemployed veterans, this is not the time to draw a technical line on the budget," said Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the bill's lead sponsor.  Republicans said the effort to help veterans was noble, but the bill was flawed nevertheless.

Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said the federal government already has six job-training programs for veterans and there is no way to know how well they are working. He argued that making progress on the country's debt was the best way to help veterans in the long-term.  Sen. Coburn obviously doesn't recognize the importance of food on the table for the evening meal.  How can we as a country do too much for these men and women who put their lives on the line for us each day?

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.said that more than 720,000 veterans are unemployed including 220,000 veterans who have served since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She said putting veterans back to work was the cost of war.

"Instead of meeting us halfway, we have been met with resistance. Instead of saying yes to the nearly 1 million unemployed veterans, it seems some on the other side have spent the last week and a half seeking any way to say no," Murray said.

A handful of Republicans joined with Democrats in voting to waive the objection to the bill: Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Dean Heller of Nevada, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maine's Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. Brown and Heller are also in tough re-election contests.

Heller said he was proud to support the bill, "After everything our veterans have done for us, the least we can do is make sure they are afforded every opportunity to thrive here at home." 

This latest insult to our veterans is in stark contrast to Lincoln's desire to help veterans in the last months of the Civil War.

Prior to the war, veterans received long-term treatment at a handful of Soldiers and Sailors homes scattered around the country.

In 1865, with so many veterans needing long-term care, Lincoln appealed to Congress and the nation in his second Inaugural address, "…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan."  Those words later became the motto of the Veterans Administration, which became the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1989.

Lincoln’s efforts resulted in creation of the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (NHDVS) in March 1865, which established a national government home for veterans of the Union’s volunteer forces. The National Asylum was overseen by a Board of 12 managers. Eventually there were 11 National Homes. In 1873, the board renamed it the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers because the word asylum was starting to have negative connotations.

Civil War Veterans
Gather for Funeral
Initially, each home served as a soldiers’ home that provided medical care. Over time, the homes offered recreational activities, libraries, and church services. According to the 1900 board of manager's annual report, several homes maintained theaters, libraries, and billiard halls.

Some of the homes offered Veterans games such as dominoes, checkers, chess, backgammon, cards, boating, skating, pool, and croquet. At the homes’ theaters, Veterans were entertained with concerts, comedies, melodramas, musicals, vaudeville, and lectures.

When the Veterans Administration was established in 1930, all 11 homes, plus three newly authorized homes in St. Petersburg, Fla., Biloxi, Miss., and Roseburg, Ore., became part of VA.

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